Sometimes, people whose habits include saving everything unwittingly pass along to their descendants the most puzzling items. While I wouldn’t categorize letters as a bizarre form of ephemera, I do wonder why some such notes were considered important enough to save.
No matter how mundane the topic, though, I appreciate each scrap of personal revelation. Today’s letter, passed along by my husband’s grandmother Agnes Tully Stevens, is no exception. My only wish is that I could discover the relationship between the author of this letter and the recipient of such verbal flourishes as are preserved within these two pages.
I know absolutely nothing about the sender, other than his name and current location. He signed his name as Fred E. Lowe, giving his location simply as Oakland. While West Coast residents will immediately call to mind the city in northern California, that is most likely not the geographic locale the writer had in mind. It turns out there was a neighborhood in south Chicago by that same name—one in which the grand old homes of a bygone era were once proudly featured.
Mr. Lowe was addressing Agnes Tully Stevens’ own mother, Catherine Malloy Tully, in this letter. At the time—February 19, 1873—Catherine had just celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday. It had been only about three years now since Catherine had married policeman John Tully, who served on the Parks Commissioners’ south side force. She and John were proud parents of little Margaret Anna Tully—or, as they preferred to call her, Daisy—who was then, at just over one year of age, their only child.
There is no clue to reveal what the “late occasion” might have been that prompted the reason for the letter. Whatever the reason, whatever the occasion, whatever the relationship, it is apparent that the letter was accompanied with a gift that the young family undoubtedly appreciated for some time to come.
My dear Mrs. Tulley
On a late occasion I asked to see your bible, and you informed me that [you] had none. Now a family bible is a very good thing in a house and very respectable; and I consider a well conducted family should not be without one. Knowing that you had none, and being determined to send you a birthday present, I concluded therefore that a bible would be the most suitable one I could send just now. So I herewith send you one….